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Vet Immunol Immunopathol. 2010 Mar 15;134(1-2):122-31. doi: 10.1016/j.vetimm.2009.10.017. Epub 2009 Oct 31.

Feline leukemia virus immunity induced by whole inactivated virus vaccination.

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Department of Microbiology, Immunology, and Pathology, 1619 Campus Delivery, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO 80523-1619, USA.


A fraction of cats exposed to feline leukemia virus (FeLV) effectively contain virus and resist persistent antigenemia/viremia. Using real-time PCR (qPCR) to quantitate circulating viral DNA levels, previously we detected persistent FeLV DNA in blood cells of non-antigenemic cats considered to have resisted FeLV challenge. In addition, previously we used RNA qPCR to quantitate circulating viral RNA levels and determined that the vast majority of viral DNA is transcriptionally active, even in the absence of antigenemia. A single comparison of all USDA-licensed commercially available FeLV vaccines using these modern sensitive methods has not been reported. To determine whether FeLV vaccination would prevent nucleic acid persistence, we assayed circulating viral DNA, RNA, antigen, infectious virus, and virus neutralizing (VN) antibody in vaccinated and unvaccinated cats challenged with infectious FeLV. We identified challenged vaccinates with undetectable antigenemia and viremia concomitant with persistent FeLV DNA and/or RNA. Moreover, these studies demonstrated that two whole inactivated virus (WIV) adjuvanted FeLV vaccines (Fort Dodge Animal Health's Fel-O-Vax Lv-K) and Schering-Plough Animal Health's FEVAXYN FeLV) provided effective protection against FeLV challenge. In nearly every recipient of these vaccines, neither viral DNA, RNA, antigen, nor infectious virus could be detected in blood after FeLV challenge. Interestingly, this effective viral containment occurred despite a weak to undetectable VN antibody response. The above findings reinforce the precept of FeLV infection as a unique model of effective retroviral immunity elicited by WIV vaccination, and as such holds valuable insights into retroviral immunoprevention and therapy.

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